Queue: Holiday x Rom-com classics


It all began in 2003. An all-star cast of Brits some known for their natural predilection to romantic comedies, others for their wit and a few purely for their A-list appeal, was assembled to revolutionize the rom-com genre. When “Love Actually”, a film that follows a number of separate storylines to tell the touching, tender tales of love during the holiday season, hit theaters, the genre, nay, the movie industry, was irreparably impacted.

A few years later, after “Love Actually” had cemented itself as both a Christmas and a romantic comedy classic by setting the all-time record for most cliches crammed into two hours and 25 minutes, “Valentine’s Day” hit the scene and was received with generally abysmal reviews. Following shortly thereafter came “New Year’s Eve” — whether as a way to repent for the sin of producing “Valentine’s Day,” or to ride on its commercially successful coattails, no one can know for sure.

To call these films anything other than cinematic treasures of the holiday x rom-com niche would be a disservice. To peg them as “ensemble cast” films would be a flagrant miscategorisation as they are much less an alliance of renowned acting talent and more so a desperate attempt by producers to compensate for a bad year by fitting as many big names into a movie as possible in hopes of driving the maximum number of people to the theater. These movies are beautiful, terrible creatures that ooze romantic cliches and drip with holiday imagery — so it goes without saying that they’re absolutely worth the watch.

“Love Actually”: 3/5

If, for some ungodly reason, you were limited to only watching one of these fine films, Arcade recommends “Love, Actually.” It’s where it all began, after all, and somehow the use of rom-com tropes, which was painful to begin with, manages to become increasingly tired as more of these films are released. Maximizing the number of actors in the film expands the room for such cliches tenfold, and the directors were appropriately opportunistic, fitting in extra-marital affairs, multiple forbidden romances (take a shot every time there’s a palpable attraction between a boss and an employee but one or more parties pulls back, knowing it simply isn’t right), will-they-won’t they’s, and Colin Firth and Hugh Grant– both of whom are, in their own right, rom-com cliches.

“New Year’s Eve”: 2/5

Of the three, “New Year’s Eve” does the best job of reducing it’s A-list– okay, A and B-list– cast to nothing more than overused character roles. “Working woman who is too busy for romance,” “pretentious artist who hides his vulnerability behind self-righteous holiday hatred,” “teen who, like, totally isn’t a kid anymore, okay mom?,” Sarah Jessica Parker,” “important business man in a rush to do important business things” and “woman scorned by famous and/or wealthy man who will totally take him back when he uses his fame and/or wealth to prove his love for her” all play their role to a tee and don’t bother showing the audience much more beyond that. This also begs the question, “do writers create characters modeled after SJP with the assumption she will take the role, or is the spirit of Sarah Jessica Parker so strong that it bleeds into her professional career, making all of her roles indistinguishable?” In addition to the comforting familiarity of these characters, the movie also puts its setting to good use, embracing New Year’s Eve in New York City full-tilt: the ball drop, kisses at midnight, extravagant and exclusive parties, Ryan Seacrest’s blindingly white teeth, Times Square shenanigans and countless other treasured traditions make the film feel seasonally appropriate, if not particularly memorable.

“Valentine’s Day”: 3/5

“Valentine’s Day” is culturally significant if for no other reason than it can be credited for bringing Hollywood’s most powerful and depressingly short-lived couple together: the Taylors Swift and Lautner. As such, it is also to thank for break-up ballad “Back to December.” For more details about the movie take all of the information from the previous two reviews, imagine it happened on Valentine’s Day, and add in a singular non-heteronormative plot-line (disappointingly, the only one out of three movies and over 20 different romantic stories between them).

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